Guest post by Mara Glatzel
Having conversations about our most closely held secrets is not easy, and often discussing our bodies, sexuality, or our relationship with food falls carefully into the category of impolite dinner conversation. However, more and more often these private struggles are being made public online – an arena where both beautiful, supportive communities can be created AND a platform for people hide behind the comfort of their own computer screen, silently, or not-so-silently judging the individual sharing. These polar opposite reactions to our words can be equal parts devastating and heart-warming, permitting us, the writers and the readers, and opportunity to dig deep, reassess, and get very clear about what is that we are say, why we are saying it, and who we are writing for.
We cannot talk about our own body image struggles without discussing privilege, but this does not mean that we cannot own our own stories. Each and every one of us are a compilation of our own personal histories, and that includes both detrimental and protective factors. Too often in the body-loving blogosphere, we see people pitting themselves against one another or discounting the experiences of others.
I am fatter that you are, so you have no reason to talk about feeling fat growing up.
You aren’t fat enough to be fat-positive.
You are too pretty to struggle with an earth-shattering lack of self-worth.
If I’d had what you had growing up, I wouldn’t complain.
When we make statements like these, even in the private confines of our own minds, we are collectively missing the point.
Will a person who is naturally thin but hates their body have the same experience as someone who is obese and hates their body? No, definitely not. Someone who is naturally thin is protected from the weathering effect of being told that you are fat, ugly and worthless on a daily basis for the duration of your life. That is a fact, but that doesn’t discount the experience of someone who is deeply uncomfortable in their own skin, no matter what their size.
We are here to shatter the thin ideal, shoot holes in the patriarchal designations of what is and what is not beautiful in this country, and help people learn how to love themselves, no matter what the size of their body.
The sad truth is, an overwhelming majority of men, women and children in this country are bombarded with messages of being unworthy and unlovable on a daily basis. Many, many people hate their bodies, and yet, it is still contentious to talk about struggling with your body image when you are stereotypically attractive or privileged in that way without being disregarded entirely.
And yet, we must own what is ours. This comes part and parcel with being self-aware, transparent, and counting your blessings where you have them.
I, for example, want to be honest about the fact that while I have been obese since age seven – I am partially shielded from scrutiny based on the fact that I am White, pretty, and educated. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t felt pain, or that I haven’t spent many, many hours utterly consumed by my disordered eating. It just means that my experience isn’t going to look exactly like your experience.
When we dissect stories in an effort to either align ourselves with one another or knit-pick at differences to put a chasm between us and the undesirable, we are wasting precious time that could be spent banding together.
When we tell our stories, out loud, for others to hear, without shame or fear, we unconsciously give others the permission to do the same. We create a community of voices around lived experiences of impaired body image and self-esteem, and through that community we are able to collectively heal.
Mara Glatzel is a self–lovecoach and author of the bodyimage + authenticliving blog, Medicinal Marzipan. If you enjoyed this post, catch up with her (almost) daily body-loving antics and general rabble-rousing on facebook, twitter, or shoot her an email.